Poetics and Jewish Philosophy. Gershom Scholem Edition

The Jewish religious historian and philosopher Gershom Scholem (born in Berlin 1897, died in Jerusalem 1982) is considered the founder of the scientific study of Jewish mysticism. Scholem’s influence, however, extends more generally into the realm of Jewish studies. His work with Theodor Adorno on an edition of Walter Benjamin’s works and letters gained him considerable recognition. Benjamin and Scholem had been friends since 1915.

Scholem’s literary remains in the National Library of Israel present yet another important side of his work: Several translations, theoretical reflections on translation, literary criticism, other theoretical pieces on poetry as well as many poems, whose importance is highlighted in journal entries and letters. These creative works draw attention to a ›literary‹ Scholem who has been largely ignored in academia for many years. His early works furthermore paved the way for his later scholarly study of the Kabbalah, especially in light of his attempts at establishing himself as a literary author and his interest in theories of language, which encompassed most importantly his occupation with laments and elegies. Scholem’s scholarly work thus ought to be thought of in conjunction with his theoretical and practical engagement with literature and poetics both in terms of a genealogical development and common subject matter. It is impossible to imagine the one without the other. Many of these works have not yet been published or can only be found in remote places. Their special value means that it behooves us to make them available to a broader readership.

This critical edition juxtaposes Scholem’s Poetica and his Judaica and is divided into six sections. In addition to original publications, the edition takes into account archival materials, as well as Scholem's published diaries and correspondence. The first section presents translations of his laments and poetological writings. These constitute preliminary stages of Scholem’s early, metaphysically-tinged explorations of the Kabbala, which turned into more historical and philological studies once Scholem moved to Israel. The second section contains translations of religious texts such as the Song of Songs, and his seminal translation of the psalms. The third section focuses on his linguistic theory of Hebrew, as he formulated it in his early critique of modern Hebrew poetry and translations from Yiddish texts after his move to Israel. The fourth section concentrates on the two modern Hebrew authors Josef Agnon and Chajim Nachman Bialik. These writers were of great importance to Scholem, who translated a number of their works and analyzed their writing in numerous essays. The fifth section assembles literary theoretical texts and literary criticism that include reflections of the author’s own aesthetic framework. The sixth section concludes the volume with the poetry that Scholem composed over six decades. Commentary contextualizes this body of work biographically and historically. This proves essential for the reader because even texts by Scholem that do not contain an explicit dedication are generally addressed to either specific people, or deal with particular controversies and current conversations, as the author’s letters and diaries prove. The book will be released in 2018.

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2014–2016
Head researcher(s): Martin Treml, Sigrid Weigel
Associate Researcher(s): Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Hannah Markus


Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Hannah Markus, Martin Treml, Sigrid Weigel (ed./eds.)
In collaboration with Theresia Heuer

Gershom Scholem: Poetica
Schriften zur Literatur, Übersetzungen, Gedichte

Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2019, 783 pages
ISBN: 978-3-633-54292-5

Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink
»Der Engel der Geschichte als Todesengel. Scholem und George Lichtheim«
»Scholems Tagebücher«, both in: Andreas Kilcher/Daniel Weidner (eds.): Gershom Scholem. Bausteine zu einer intellektuellen Biographie (forthcoming)

Hannah Markus
»Das Editionsprojekt ›Poetologie und jüdische Philosophie. Gershom Scholem-Edition‹. Literarische und poetologische Schriften in Scholems Nachlass in der National Library of Israel, Jerusalem«, in: Geschichte der Germanistik. Historische Zeitschrift für die Philologien 49/50 (2016), 151–153

»Scholem als Dichter. ›Vae Victis oder Der Tod in der Professur‹ (1926/1943)«, in: Andreas Kilcher/Daniel Weidner (eds.): Gershom Scholem. Bausteine zu einer intellektuellen Biographie (forthcoming)

Martin Treml
»Scholem und Jacob Taubes«, in: Andreas Kilcher/Daniel Weidner (eds.): Gershom Scholem. Bausteine zu einer intellektuellen Biographie (forthcoming)

Daniel Weidner
Zwei neue Biographien von Gershom Sholem. Oder: Was kann eigentlich eine intellektuelle Biographie?, in: ZfL Blog. Blog des Leibniz-Zentrums für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin, 11 Dec 2018

Sigrid Weigel
»The Role of Lamentation for Scholems Theory of Poetry and Language«, in: Ilit Ferber/Paula Schwebel (eds.): Lament in Jewish Thought. Philosophical, Theological and Literary Perspectives. Berlin/Boston 2014, 185-203.


Book presentation
28 May 2019 · 7.00 pm

Gershom Scholem: Poetica

W. M. Blumenthal Akademie, Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin, Klaus Mangold Auditorium

read more
Conference in Zurich
19 Oct 2017 – 21 Oct 2017

Thirty Years After. Jacob Taubes between Politics, Philosophy and Religion

Collegium Helveticum, Semper-Sternwarte, Schmelzbergstr. 25, 8006 Zürich

read more
Gershom Scholem Today. The Current Significance of His Work (Workshop)
10 Feb 2016 · 10.00 am

Middat ha-din and middat ha-rahamim in Scholem’s Poetics. Sources and Implications

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Seminarraum 303

read more
Gershom Scholem Today. The Current Significance of His Work (Lecture)
09 Feb 2016 · 7.00 pm

Menachem Lorberbaum (Tel Aviv): To Knowingly Sin. Sabbatianism and Hasidism Revisited

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

read more
International Workshop
11 May 2015 – 12 May 2015 · 10.00 am

Praise and Mourning. Poetics and Thought in the Early Writings of Gershom Scholem

Tel Aviv University, Gilman Building, Room 133

read more

Media Response

29 May 2019
Das deutsch-jüdische Gespräch, eine Illusion? Gershom Scholem rang sein Leben lang darum, verkörperte es: die »Poetic« vorzüglich kommentiert

Review by Wolfgang Matz, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 May 2019

24 Mar 2019
Zurück zur Sprache der Bibel. Gershom Scholem: "Poetica"

Radio review by Hans-Martin Schönherr-Mann, in: Deutschlandfunk, program Büchermarkt, 24 Mar 2019

15 Mar 2019
Der Mann, der sich in eine Bibliothek verliebte. Poetica

Review by Eberhard Geisler, in: Frankfurter Rundschau, 15 Mar 2019